SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– At a homeless outreach event back on January 30th, 2020, the Ozarks Alliance to end homelessness got information from the 247 people that showed up. The following data was gathered.
- 38% percent were between the age of 51-74
- 81% had some sort of disability
- And about 67% had been homeless for a year or more.
This was before the world was essentially turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Back in March, we started administering a community impact survery for those who were coming in and seeking services,” Director of Homeless Services for CPO Adam Bodendieck told Ozarks First in November.
Speaking on a newly-released homelessness “point-in-time report”, Bodendieck says he and his team were able to get a feel for how many people were homeless for the first time.
“We have seen a slight increase – about 159 additional people than we have in the previous year. I think COVID has played a bit of a role, we don’t know how much, but I think we may continue to see that increase.”
Bodendieck says nearly half of the people who responded to that survey reported job loss this year.
The increase in people has put a strain on shelters this year, especially with reduced capactiy limits. 24 year old Chris Rice is a pastor, and manager for the Veterans Coming Home Center, Springfield’s only day shelter.
“There are three things that keep me up at night. Number one, that we have a COVID outbreak among the people that we serve, or my staff. The second thing is staffing – volunteering. I am on bare minimum right now. The third thing is just that we over reach our capacity for this building and I have to start turning people away.”
Of those three issues, Rice says the one most easily solvable is volunteers. He says getting just a few more volunteers can ease the burden on his staff and help take care of more people that will be experiencing their first winter on the streets.
“I want people to know that there are hundreds of people who are living on the streets who are scared.”